There have been two pieces of very rare good news for Victorian strata owners and residents, in the past week.
The state government has extended the defect claims period for buildings clad in combustible materials. And apartment renovations can’t be carried out during the Stage Four lockdowns unless the whole unit block is unoccupied.
This offers considerable relief for residents forced to stay home while a neighbour – somewhat selfishly, it must be said – undertakes a major renovation of their property.
It will end a nightmare for people who haven’t even been able to escape to cafes or parks during noisy drilling and hammering.
The issue was revealed by a Flatchatter who couldn’t get a definitive answer from any authorities in Victoria about renovations that started 12 hours before the stage four lockdown came into force and have continued ever since.
“The six days of jack-hammering and subsequent grinding of the concrete is now over,” wrote Danny D in this Forum thread. It relates how he’d been trapped at home while a neighbour – a builder – worked on extensive renovations on his unit.
“The next stages will just be hammering/sawing etc,” he added. “Next step is to contact our local councillor. We have recordings of the jack-hammering so let’s hope we can get a result.”
That result came last Friday when Victoria’s Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions announced that the lockdown rule that homes must be empty during renovations applies to the whole of an apartment block, not just the apartment that’s being renovated.
“Tradespeople and builders can only visit your home for renovations if you have fully vacated the property and are not staying there during the period of Stage 4 restrictions,” according to clearly surprised strata managers in a Strata Community Australia (Vic) report.
“The property will not be considered fully vacant if residents are still residing in a separate room, apartment or building on the property, even if the works they wish to continue relate to an adjoining extension.
“If you’re still living at the property, then trades people and builders can only make emergency repairs. If you have vacated the property, then renovations can proceed in line with restrictions on residential construction.
“A lot within a residential tower is not permitted to undertake renovations, unless the entire residential tower is vacated.”
Meanwhile. the Victorian government is to extend the time owners have to launch claims against builders who installed combustible cladding on their buildings.
According to the Urban Developer website, a change to the Cladding Safety Victoria Bill will increase the window in which apartment owners can pursue builders from 10 to 12 years.
The extension will offer welcome relief to owners whose 10-year time limit of claims expired, or would have, between the announcement of the cladding rectification program last July and a year after the new bill commences.
The bill will also formally separate Cladding Safety Victoria, the agency responsible for overseeing the state’s $600 million rectification program, from the Victorian Building Authority regulator and make it a standalone body.
“Apartment owners are in this situation through no fault of their own and it’s only right they have as much time as possible to pursue compensation through the courts,” minister for planning Richard Wynne said.